The Nacirema Tribe of North America

While we've all heard of the Cherokee and Navajo tribes, much less attention has been given to the Nacirema band of Native Americans, despite their fascinating culture that included ritually:
"scraping and lacerating the surface of the face with a sharp instrument" and another ritual that "consists of inserting a small bundle of hog hairs into the mouth, along with certain magical powders, and then moving the bundle in a highly formalized series of gestures."

If you think those behaviors sound weird, you might want to consider that Nacirema is actually just American spelled backwards and the whole matter was just a spoof on American customs. It's one of many great scientific hoaxes you can learn about in this great Science article.


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Miner's story was required reading in my Comparative History of Ideas intro class at the University of Washington. Seemed obvious enough that Nacirema was American backwards. When I later "Peer Facilitated" the class, I was surprised at the number of students that were fooled. The response papers were a hoot!
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